For our final leg of our journey, and for this series, we drive down from the Atherton Tablelands and make our way to Cairns, the major tourist city for Far North Queensland, with its famous birding stretch known as the Esplanade Boardwalk, which runs along the waterfront through a beautiful bird rich reserve. This walk sports tree birds feeding in native fruit trees on one side and shorebirds, waders and sea birds on the other. We walked from our accommodation onto the waterfront reserve where we strolled with camera clicking for a couple of kilometers toward the town centre. Interesting sculptures and artworks were also along the reserve.
The very first bird to draw our attention with its very unique call, was the Black Butcherbird, which is only found up here in the top end of Australia. It was deep in the sub canopy of a very large fig tree, in quite poor light. Butcherbirds get their name because of their tendency to hang their prey of small reptiles and birds from the forks of trees or impale them on branches, though they are essentially insectivorous. Notice the hooked beak. Click on photos to enlarge them.
All along the reserve lined with fruiting rainforest fruit trees the sounds of frenzied feeding was heard from several species of birds aggressively and noisily feeding. The main bird is the Australian Figbird. The far northern race (subspecies) has a much brighter red eye ring than our southern race, and a more yellow throat and chest, but the female looks much the same for both races being brown with a bluish grey eye ring.
Another frenzied feeder was the Metallic Starling with its beautiful shining metallic plumage and bright red eye..
I had a little trouble working out who this one was. Was it a cross between a female Figbird and an Oriole, no, it actually is a immature Metallic Starling. Note the red eyes.
The Dusky Honeyeater, another bird found only up here, was checking the flowers for nectar with its long curved beak. This video has been slowed to half speed.
On the large lawn area of the reserve we saw a small flock of of the tiny finch like Nutmeg Mannikin grazing on the grass seed. They grazed in family units often, two adults and one or two juvenile. The juvenile lacks the patterns on the chest and front of body.
Juvenile nutmeg Mannikin
Nutmeg Mannikin family
Nutmeg Mannikin adult
As we walked along the waterfront we were blessed with the fact that it was low tide coming in, as the shore birds, which included migratory waders that had not returned to Alaska to breed this season. The Bar-tailed Godwit was out first encounter foraging on the mud flats.
We were elated to find a small flock of Whimbrel a fare way out by the shore, many were sleeping but some exploring in the late afternoon sun.
I only managed one good shot at this Eastern Reef Egret in dark morph as it flew over.
The occasional Caspian Tern was also present.
Caspian Tern with Gull-bill Tern
Caspian Tern with sleeping Gull-bill Tern
Our greatest find was the Gull-billed Tern, another bird found only up the north end, Breeding plumage has the black cap on the head and non-breeding just a black mark on the eye.
This Great Egret gave a beautiful landing…
and then watched this pair of Australian Pelican glide just above the water line and land with its friends to hunt below the water.
There were some Sandpiper way out near the waterline, but I could not identify what kind they were. They are always difficult being so many so similar.
It was also a thrill to see the Black-fronted Dotterel pair in the late afternoon light…
Lastly, the Sacred Kingfisher, a beautiful bird often seen on the mud flats…
Before we left we took a walk along the Jack Barnes Mangrove Boardwalk near the airport where some very fast and tiny birds were seen. Here one can see several different species of mangrove in the one place. Lovely Fairy-wrens are also reported to be seen here, but not on the day we where there. These birds were too fast
Before I finish I would recommend a book to my Aussie birder friends, that I recently read, called ‘Where Song Began’. Tim Low, the author, has extensive experience as a biologist with Australian animals and birds and has rubbed shoulders with many of the world’s ornithologists and conversationalists. If you can read without letting the ‘millions of years’ evolutionary hypothetical reasoning get to you ( interesting enough, Tim mentions how the postulations of these so called scientists constantly change regarding the origins and evolutionary history) you will learn many interesting facts about our birds. What is interesting and scientific, is Tim’s observations and information he has gathered about Australia’s birds and how through the years up to today we can understand better why our birds are so different to those of the northern hemisphere. One interesting truth that he shares near the end of the book is how the early so called Naturalists (European settlers including John Guild) would wantonly kill with rifle so many birds, and steal their eggs in the name of scientific study, which of course was a hypocritical disaster. Many shot our birds and animals, some to extinction, and many depleted to the extent that they now do not exist in places in any great number. The good news is that man, the hunter, has traded his rifle for a camera and binoculars and can now shoot the birds and animals without causing their demise. Now most people actually feed the birds and water them instead of eating them and shooting them for sport, feathers and taxidermy. An interesting and enlightening read for every Aussie birder. This is a Penguin publication.
Have you checked out my website for interesting facts on birding from my menu on Homepage?
Have you checked out my Special Sightings page and seen my latest Powerful Owl photos?
Have you checked out my book ‘What Birds Teach Us’ on my Birdbook page. You can buy your copy here online through secure PayPal, or send me an email via my AboutUs page to buy several copies, as it makes a great Christmas or Birthday gift for all ages?
The lesson I learned for this week came from reading Tim Low’s book mentioned above. It was an interesting exercise to read a book heavily steeped in a philosophy I do not hold to and yet despite this, be edified and taught from Tim’s many scientific observations. The art of gleaning truth is much needed today more than ever in our humanistic society. Many of our youth today have become accustomed to believing information simply because it is on the internet, and so conclude it must be true, but that is far from the truth. God warns me in his Bible in these ‘last days’ to be alert and wise and not caught sleeping in the complacency of popular opinion as the ‘prince of this world‘ deceives and confuses the minds of God’s beloved children.
“For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” – Proverbs 2:6 (NIV)
The good news is that we I not been left alone and helpless but God has provided for me as I partner and bond my life to Jesus, God’s Son. Jesus tells me:
“But when he, the Spiritoftruth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” – John 16:13
Have a wonderful week and please pray for a break in our drought, as some inland towns have no water and food for their stock, and over 80 bushfires are burning many out of control, possibly more will start in the strong winds of today!
Travelling further north in Far North Queensland we spent a night at Mission Beach where it is known one would see the world’s most dangerous and Australia’s second largest flightless bird, the Southern Cassowary. All visitors to the top end are warned ‘Be wary of the Cassowary’ not so much because of the bony head piece or casque, but because of their huge clawed feet with three toes, the innermost having a huge claw which it uses to attack. After tearing open the victim they jump on them. They have been known to bang on doors and break glass to get entry, or to attack their own reflection.
It is one of the few birds that can and has killed humans and animals when provoked. We were at Mission Beach on the weekend of the Cassowary Festival, but not one bird could be seen. However there are signs all along the road warning of recent Cassowary crossings. A friend gave us a tip off to go to nearby Etty Beach and that is where these photos came from. A pair quite tame birds, did the rounds for food in the caravan park, hiding out on nearby private property. This video shows how tall they can stand when picking fruit.
Humans driving cars are the reason numbers are depleting, including depleted habitat. When people feed wild animals they come to them for more food. A car means humans means food, to a unsuspecting Cassowary, which results in death, as you can see by the sign warning below. These birds are fruit eaters, and it has recently been realised they are most important in maintaining the integrity of rainforest by pooing out the seeds from the fruit they eat at various locations. When these birds are gone the rainforest may start to deplete itself of new growth and die.
Another lifer, the Pheasant Coucal, was sighted from quite a distance coming out of the rainforest for a moment and I managed to get one shot before it saw me and fled. I had seen these beautiful birds several times flying off into the forest as I drove along the road A tourist from the Czech Republic joined me as we tried to find the bird. Click on photos to enlarge them.
Leaving the coast we made our up into the hinterland of the famous Atherton Tablelands where the thickest rainforest exists, and the home of the Tree Kangaroo which we managed to see in the pouting rain. We had to go over unsealed rough roads with the hire care at only 20 km/hr, but we were determined and praying the whole way that the car would be OK, and thankfully it was. It was pouring rain most of the time up there, and this footage was taken high up in the light deprived canopy.
Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroo is the species found almost exclusively in this region. Papua and New Guinea also have their own species. They feed on leaves and fruit from the native forest. Their very long tail has no visible function as it does not grab or hold, it just hangs down. This was a lifer in the wild for us both. Unlike other kangaroos it spends its life in rainforest trees where it seldom comes down, but to relocate to food sources.
While up in the Atherton area we actually stayed in an Eco Lodge deep in the rainforest, where each morning and night we not only heard the rain and the the strange sounds of the rainforest birds calling, but actually got to feed some of the regular visitors to our cabin. The two lifers that came to visit were the Spotted Catbird and the female Victoria Riflebird. Sadly the colorful male Riflebirds are usually further north this time of year. The chubby Lewins Honeyeater, a rainforest bird we are well acquainted with down south was our most frequent visitor, eating pieces of fruit we put out on the railing, as we sat and sipped our wine and cheese.
Apologies for the visual noise in the video clip as it was quite dark facing into the rainforest most of the time, especially in the rain. Most of the rainforest birds, and in fact most Australian birds are fruit eaters, nectar eaters, insect eaters and Lerps eaters, but for rainforest birds native fruits and insects are thew main diet..
Each morning we were awakened to the sounds of the Catbird calling and the Orange-footed Scrubfowl. You can’t mistake the loud Catbird sound which woke us up, and the Scrubfowl is making the unusual loud warbling cackle occasionally and some other bird is making the regular single note chime. It sounded like this…
We did manage to see an Orange-footed Scrubfowl digging outside of the forest while the common Australian Brush Turkey wandered around. The Brush Turkey is very brazen and has no fear, it would try and steal the food we put out for the shy rainforest birds. They are a problem in Sydney also for destroying gardens and building their mounds in unpopular places.
Australian Brush Turkey females
Australian Brush Turkey females
The Little Shrike-thrush was a common bird here in the rainforest also, it was frequenting the gardens of the Eco lodge.
While near Atherton we took drive to famous Hastie’s Swamp a great haven for waterbirds, and always full of Plumed Whistling Ducks, they were there in their hundreds whistling away.
They are a beautiful looking bird, the males have the larger longer plumes, and a true flock bird. We saw many of these birds in various places on our travels far north.
Plumed Whistling Duck male
Plumed Whistling Duck
Plumed Whistling Duck
Plumed Whistling Duck
Plumed Whistling Duck
Plumed Whistling Duck
Plumed Whistling Duck
Several families of Pink-eared Duck and a few only of Australia’s rarest endemic waterfowl, the Freckled Duck, which is not normally seen this far north. Freckled Duck but they like usual, being shy of humans were some distance and sleeping on the water as you will see in my one good shot below..
Freckled Duck sleeping
You can learn more about the Pink-eared Duck from reading my book “What Birds Teach Us” which you can order here online. Visit my BirdBook page to find out more. Thank you so much everyone for your wonderful reviews, so glad it is blessing people of all ages.
Also, if you have not visited my new Special Sightings page and seen my latest entrythePowerful Owl(male and female), Australia’s largest owl, we saw last weekend, with Possum prey hanging on display from beneath the talon of the maleclick here.and I’ll take you there.
You may remember this sequence of events in the first video clip of this post…
The lesson I learn from the Southern Cassowary is that so called human kindness can be to the dire detriment of the bird. No matter how tame the bird might appear to be, this camper is doing the right thing in preventing the bird from stealing his food, he as the saying goes being cruel to be kind by discouraging the bird from coming to humans for handouts, which is the main cause of them being killed on roads, as well as attacking people and destructively breaking into houses. Notice how this man wisely rebuked the bird standing behind the table and making minimum eye contact. It was the following picture, my wife took, which caused me to see the spiritual aspect in all this.
Here in this photo man and wild bird have respect and lack of fear for each other, the man appreciating this special moment with this bird which is capable of killing him if it felt threatened or become aggressive demanding food. Many of Australia’s territorial birds are aggressive. As an aside: Australia has the largest percentage of aggressive birds in the world, and it is partly due to their diet and their territorial controls, as they compete for nectar, lerps and fruit. You are more likely to be attacked by a bird in Australia than any where else, and other birds and other animals are included as victims.
Interesting enough, the above picture occurs after the above series of the man chastising the bird for trying to steal his food. Today, sadly, we are seeing many problems with youth not having respect and consideration for others. This selfishness is partly due to the lack of discipline the parents have not employed during the child’s formative years. The secular humanistic philosophieswhich have departed from the life principles of the Creator has contributed to this. The spare the rod and spoil the child has come about because many parents disciplined out of anger, frustration and cruel punishment instead of out of loving correction, which uses a bare minimum of physical corrective contact while the child is very young. As with the Cassowary, when a child is allowed to always have its way, and becomes dependent on us to give it what it wants, we set a pattern for their future downfall in life, leading to possible depressive and loveless mindset, and in some cases suicide (internalized rage) or violent anger (externalized rage). As parents we need to firstly model the behaviour we want for our children by loving them, and the most important way we can do this is to love our spouse, for this is what they will learn more so than words, as the old adage says: it is better felt than telt. We teach our children and grandchildren more from how we live and speak than from anything we tell them to do, or even discipline them for. All discipline is meant in to be loving correction of bad behaviour BEFORE it gets out of hand, not for our own gain, but for the overall future good of the child. The types of discipline change with the growing child. God himself does the same with me, as she shapes my life and disciplines me when I become selfish and do things in a way detriment to his best for my life.
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live!They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.’ – Hebrews 12: 5-11 (NIV)
Leaving Townsville, we drive a hire car up the coast northward to our next stop, the Tyto Wetlands Centre in Ingham. Birders had told us this was a must visit place and we were not disappointed seeing several lifers, the first being the Crimson Finch, pictured above. These tiny birds were constantly flying and landing in the tall grass where they find their seed diet. The male is bright crimson and the female mainly around the head and tail. and juveniles mainly grey/brown. Click on photo to enlarge it.
Crimson Finch (male)
Crimson Finch male
Crimson Finch (male)
Crimson Finch (female)
Crimson Finch (juvenile)
Female Crimson Finch
The name Tyto is named after the rare Eastern Grass Owl (Tyto capensis) which is found there in the grassland during the latter part of the year. This wetlands is well cared for by the local council and has well marked walks, including crocodile warnings, which concerned my wife, though the only croc we saw while up north was a baby one in Reef HQ (the largest coral aquarium in the world, at Townsville). Crocs are river dwellers mainly, and can get washed out into coastal areas during the wet season.
Walking the circuit we saw several types of habitat including bush, open forest, grassland, lake, and pandanas forest.
The red-backed Fairy-wren was again a great delight.
One of the common birds seen up here quietly sitting in trees is the Spangled Drongo, which is usually identified by its classic tail and shimmering bluish/black metallic plumage.
We were surprised to find two kinds of Shrike-thrush next to each other in the woodlands both different races of Little Shrike-thrush, both lifers. These races (subspecies) are found only in this part of Australia.
Little Shrike-thrush race rufogaster)
Little Shrike-thrush race rufogaster)
I had wondered where the Rufous Whistlers had gone during the drought, finding one here.
But another lifer brought excitement to my wife, the White-browed Robin which is only found in Far North Queensland, her namesake. The English have a Robin but we have 17 different species of Robin. No these are not the same photos notice the tail, a feature of the robins is how they flick their tails up and down while perched.
Another bird only seen this far north was this White-gaped Honeyeater. I guess when you have over 70 honeyeaters and many have white markings on their face, it gets difficult to name them accordingly, so this one is gaped.
Another passerine lifer was this Brush Cuckoo, which has the feature of looking like a cuckoo but without the usual white tips on the upper tail being obvious. If you look closely you can detect bands showing through the brown upper tail, this can make it difficult to call.
The most prolific bird seen here by the lakes is of course the Forest Kingfisher, beautifully attired in his bright blue vest, standing out against the brown mud and reeds. I managed to convince him to fly so you can appreciate his full beauty.
Forest Kingfisher resting
Forest Kingfisher resting with Peaceful Doves
Forest Kingfisher in flight
Other classic waterside birds included the Australasian Darter and the Intermediate Egret, one we do not see much of down south.
So we come now to the lakes, the actual wetlands. Here is a panorama of the area, which includes the Comb-crested Jacana who was my first bird seen here on the water, and quickly hid from me.
But the most exciting find on the water was not the Hardheads which were close to shore, but the unusual looking birds afloat, way out in the middle of the lake, well away from us. My wife trained her trusty binoculars, which she proudly purchased from the London Wetlands Centre a few years ago, on these birds which turned out again to be lifers. The Green Pygmy-Goose and the Cotton Pygmy-Goose were peacefully together with the Hardheads and the Wandering Whistling Ducks. The Cotton Pygmy-Goose was a lifer for me not just in the wild but ever.
Green Pygmy-Goose pair
Green Pygmy-Goose with Hardheads
Cotton Pygmy-Goose and Wandering Whistling Ducks
Green Pygmy-Goose pair
Hardheads landing near Cotton Pygmy-Goose
Green Pygmy-Goose flying off
Notice the black eye marking of the male Cotton Pygmy-Goose and the lack thereof in the females, one fore and aft of the male.
And of course, there is always one lone Australasian Grebe, this one with some breeding plumage, in the lake. I am sure there are others somewhere else.
Our visit here had been a great delight, though the fear of crocs was a little off putting for my wife. We had seen several lifers. We would now make our way further north to the rainforest areas visiting Mission Beach and the Atherton Tablelands for some very unique birdlife, but that will be in my next post.
Check out my NEW Special Sightings page.which shares special local birding highlights, unique and rare sightings. See my latest shots of thePowerful Owl with prey. Check out my HomePage for more birding tips, inspirational and info pages.
At Reef HQ in Townsville we saw many species of coral and tropical fish including the most unusual Clownfish which spends most of its time swimming in among the tentacles of the Sea Anemone. Sea Anemones are predators that attach themselves to rocks or coral. There, they sit and wait until a fish swims close enough to attack with its tentacles. Clownfish are one of the only species that can survive the deadly sting of the Sea Anemone.
By making the anemone their home, Clownfish become immune to its sting. These fish will gently touch every part of their bodies to the anemone’s tentacles until it no longer affects them. A layer of mucus then forms on the clown fish’s body to prevent it from getting stung again. This relationship reminds me of living under my Father God’s loving care. As I grow from a child to an adult I am initially disciplined so as to learn to live a good life.
“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?” – Hebrews 12:7
As I remain under the care of our loving Father we remain protected from the Enemy, that is not the Anemone, who we are warned, lurks about the world around us, seeking to lead us to destruction.
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaringlion looking for someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8
Abnormal, selfish, destructive addictive behaviour results when I make myself vulnerable to bad decisions and thoughts. I am only safe in my loving Father’s own prescriptive plan for a good life, which he designed and created for,when I remain in his loving protection close to Him, knowing He is always close to me. His Love Letter the Bible contains all I need for His best for my life.
‘Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge. “I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” – Psalm 16:1,2
Now that I have cut back from full-time work, my second book is under way, featuring more Australian birds and their unusual characteristics. In a similar way to the first book, it is set in a counseling context, but for families, many of which are also in crisis and need of life skills to assist them with proven life experiences and life skills for making good life decisions. This book “Birds of a Feather – Family Forever.” will again be a unique work presented in a simple readable format similar to my first book. I have been greatly encouraged by many important people in my life, who are awaiting this much needed work, and hopefully will become another non-confronting counseling tool for all ages. This book will be an asset for young adults planning for relationship and family giving helpful tools and insights for a Together Forever life.
Please Note: Increases to postage, packaging and handling fees required the small increase in purchase price. However, buying here online remains the least expensive place to buy your copy compared to most retail shops which sell for $35 in Australia.